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Roots of European Gypsies?

In 1992, the French filmmaker Tony Gatlif came to Rajasthan to film his documentary Latcho Drom, about the roots of European gypsy culture. In Europe, gypsies are known as the Roma or the Romani, and are often victimised. They don't look Caucasian, they speak their own language and their origins are mysterious.

Now, thanks to the findings of a study conducted by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, there’s scientific data to prove the long-standing belief that the Roma originated in India. A study led by Dr Kumarasamy Thangaraj of CCMB has found evidence that the genetic roots of the European Roma lie in north-western India. “We have compared the worldwide phylogeographical data for Indian H1a1a haplotypes with Roma and concluded that the aboriginal scheduled tribes and scheduled caste populations of north western India, traditionally referred to as the Doma and also known as Dalits, are the most likely ancestral populations of modern European Roma,” said Thangaraj.

CCMB tracked the Roma using the Y chromosome genetic signature, which is inherited from father to son to grandson. All males of a family or a population evolved from a single founder male will possess the same Y chromosome. Based on the genetic signatures found on the Y chromosome, every male can be assigned to a specific group (haplogroup), and a paternal lineage can be traced using the signatures.

The most recent common ancestor of European Roma had not been identified so far because of the absence of data from India. However, after screening about 10,000 males from around the world – including about 7,000 belonging to 205 ethnic Indian populations – CCMB found the genetic root of Europe's Roma community in India. While selecting samples, CCMB's scientists focused on cultural resonances between the Roma and north western India. “The closest as well as matching haplotypes with the Roma haplotypes were found only in scheduled caste and scheduled tribe populations of north western India appear to corroborate the linguistic evidence and the most recent reconstruction of the likely ethnolinguistic origins and affinities of the gypsies, based on linguistic and Indological studies,” said Dr. Gyaneshwer Chaubey, a member of CCMB research team. The similarity between the words “Roma” and “Doma” is one example of common cultural ground. It is estimated that the Roma moved out of India approximately 1,405 years ago. They then migrated to various parts of the world, including Europe. According to a study conducted in 2004, there are approximately four million Roma in Europe.

When with Roma... The Romani people are an ethnic group largely concentrated in Europe, especially Central and Eastern Europe. The Romani are believed to have migrated from north-western India approximately 1,000 years ago. In 2010 French authorities demolished 51 illegal Roma camps. The deportations were called a “disgrace” by an EU officer.
Source: Published Sunday, Dec 2, 2012, 10:30 IST By KV Ramana | Place: Hyderabad | Agency: DNA

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